Certificate in Military and Veterans Health, Policy and Advocacy
College of William & Mary Law School
Who We Are
William & Mary Law School's Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic is now offering the first-of-its-kind online Certificate in Military and Veterans Health, Policy and Advocacy (MVHPA), and is currently accepting registrations for its inaugural classes in 2017-2018.
The curriculum can be helpful to a variety of individuals, including attorneys, advocates, law students, veterans, service members, transition personnel, legal officers, veteran services officers, family members and caregivers. There is a discount for veterans and active duty service members.
Benefits of the Certificate:
- Learn from William & Mary Law School experts about the legal and psychological challenges facing service members and veterans today, and how to help them as a volunteer, or in veteran-serving employment.
- Develop persuasive writing skills in order to effectively advocate for service members and veterans in the disability and discharge upgrade systems.
- Gain the necessary knowledge and skills, and the education required, for accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in order to successfully represent veterans in the disability compensation process.
- Obtain a distinguishing credential demonstrating intensive training in veterans benefits law, skill in persuasive advocacy, knowledge of separations and discharges and how to address them, legislative policy work, and the psychological challenges our service members and veterans face.
Successful completion of all four courses in the MVHPA curriculum will lead to a non-degree Certificate, however courses can also be taken individually. The program will be entirely online and asynchronous, with classes offered pass-fail. The Certificate can be obtained in a minimum of two eight-week terms, or a maximum of four eight-week terms, with students able to complete the courses in the Certificate at their own pace. We will also seek CLE and CEU credit options for this coursework. During the initial eight-week term, starting in August 2017, only Courses 1 and 2 will be offered; in subsequent eight-week terms, all four courses will be offered. Courses are taught by Puller Clinic Faculty and Fellows experienced in these areas and include:
1. Veterans Disability Benefits:
This course will equip advocates for veterans to pursue claims for VA disability compensation benefits. It will thoroughly explain the nature of disability benefits, eligibility criteria, and VA’s adjudication process for awarding benefits. The course will enable students to assess the potential merit of claims, to develop the evidence necessary to establish entitlement, to work with healthcare providers and other resources to acquire this evidence, to prepare comprehensive claims and craft effective arguments in support of them, and to engage successfully with a complex and challenging federal agency bureaucracy. The course will also explore measures that active duty service members can take to enhance their chances of obtaining VA benefits in the future. This course will include the topics required to satisfy the Department of Veterans Affairs' accreditation and re-accreditation education requirements for attorneys and advocates.
2. Legal Research and Writing for Advocacy:
This course will teach students to research and write effectively to advocate for service members and veterans. These skills will serve advocates in various contexts, such as claims for VA disability compensation or other benefits and proceedings concerning military administrative separation or discharge issues. The course will focus on the most effective techniques for presenting clear and concise information to engage the attention of and persuade bureaucratic decision makers.
3. Separations, Discharges and Legislative Advocacy:
This course will teach students about the administrative separation and discharge processes of the service branches. Students will learn advocacy strategies for veterans in discharge upgrade cases with the Discharge Review Boards, Boards of Correction for Military Records and the Administrative Review Boards of the service branches. The impact of various discharge characterizations on veterans will be explored. Students will learn through case studies how to effectively navigate each process, and will draft legislative and regulatory proposals to advocate for policy changes impacting veterans at the state and/or federal level.
4. Psychological Challenges and Resulting Legal Issues for Service Members and Veterans:
This course will focus on the psychological impact of trauma and the resultant consequences experienced by some veterans and members of the military, including post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, depression, military sexual trauma and moral injury. A focus on coping, resilience, and post-traumatic growth will be included. In addition to learning about each of these health challenges and how they are identified and treated, the course will explore how service members and veterans can obtain medical assistance and disability compensation benefits, including issues related to findings of competency and assignments of fiduciaries for purposes of receiving benefits. When appropriate, legislative and policy issues related to these injuries may be explored. Students may learn through case studies, texts, or articles.